Fortune Favors the Flexible: Managing Strategic Pivots in an Uncertain Time
After nearly half a year since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the United States,1 with businesses starting to reopen and virus numbers continuing to rise,2 it remains impossible to know the full impact the pandemic will have on the global economy.
However, certain business pressures have been made clear and the learnings from this period will have an indelible impact on the workforce and corporations of the future. Flexibility, speed, and organizational readiness will be critical to thrive as businesses become increasingly accustomed to a state of constant transformation. As the economy stabilizes and businesses settle into the ‘new normal’, most leaders at large companies will be looking to strengthen their organizational resilience through technology and operating models that enable them to pivot their strategies quickly.3
In the first months of the pandemic, leaders were squarely focused on business continuity and sourcing short-term, tactical work collaboration tools. Now, they are shifting focus to developing more robust and cohesive digital workplace capabilities that will allow for greater organizational agility and enable them to drive strategy execution over the long term.
Catalant’s SaaS Platform and Expert Marketplace give companies a scalable digital workplace and seamless access to a network of high-quality independent consultants and firms to help businesses organize and execute strategic work.
1The New York Times, “A Timeline for the Coronavirus Pandemic,” July 8, 2020.
2The New York Times, “Disney World Opens Its Gates, With Virus Numbers Rising,” July 11, 2020.
3Catalant, “3 Ways the Coronavirus Will Change How Large Companies Work,” April 2, 2020.
Breaking it Down
New Talent Models for Dynamic Resource Deployment
A recent piece by Harvard Business Review on managing strategic pivots during the pandemic provides an illustrative example of how large companies have had to respond to rapid changes in consumer demand:
As demand has soared for essential products, consumer-goods powerhouse Unilever has pivoted to prioritize its packaged food, surface cleaners, and personal hygiene product brands over other products, such as skin care, where demand has fallen. The company does not yet know which changes might be permanent. If the upswing in remote work endures, Unilever might find that some of its pivots will remain in place. In fact, the move toward in-home consumption might require repositioning of not only food brands but also personal care offerings.4
This example makes clear how businesses that have responded adeptly to changes in the market have aligned their strategies with trends that have been intensified by the pandemic and made investments that are natural extensions of their existing capabilities.
It also underscores the importance of flexibility to organizational resilience: after all, companies like Unilever must undergo significant changes to their operations and resource allocation in order to adapt to such changes; what’s more, they don’t know how long these market changes will last, how consumer demand will continue to evolve, or how they’ll have to pivot next.
Many of our customers have told us similar stories. Some divisions or business units are soaring in post-pandemic market conditions, while others are facing significant headwinds. This imbalance creates stress for many large organizations, as high-performing parts of the business must produce beyond capacity while anemic parts of the business may have extra capacity due to slowed demand. Before the pandemic, most companies allocated roughly the same resources to the same business units and product lines year after year, despite evidence that this operational rigidity hindered their ability to realize strategic goals.5 However, the pandemic has intensified pressure on organizations to embrace new operating models that allow for greater organizational agility.
4Harvard Business Review, “How Businesses Have Successfully Pivoted During the Pandemic,” July 7, 2020.
5McKinsey Quarterly, “How To Put Your Money Where Your Strategy Is,” March 1, 2012.
Case Study: Agile Transformation of a Multinational Brewing Company
A multinational brewing company recognized the need to adopt new talent models for dynamic resource deployment to increase agility and innovate faster.
The company uses Catalant’s SaaS Platform to increase the impact of employees with scarce, high-demand capabilities through a Center of Excellence (COE) to drive continuous improvement.
It also uses Catalant’s Expert Marketplace to flexibly access a network of nearly 70,000 elite independent consultants and more than 1,000 firms to support innovation workstreams.
Accessing and dynamically deploying internal and external talent through the same platform allows business leaders to quickly find the right people for the right work at the right time.
Increasing internal mobility and dynamically deploying employees in large organizations requires a nuanced understanding of the skills and experiences within your workforce. Catalant’s SasS Platform gives business leaders a more granular picture of the capabilities and aspirations of individual employees, which allows for more efficient resource allocation. The platform also gives leaders visibility into ongoing work to ensure that the workforce is engaged, productive, and driving strategy forward.
Flexible Access to External Talent
Increasing visibility into how the skills and experiences of the workforce align with the needs of the business also allows business leaders to recognize where they have organizational capability or capacity gaps.
In many cases, the pandemic has exacerbated existing capability gaps: it has accelerated the need for digital transformation at the same time it has forced businesses to take on cost-saving measures and make sharp cuts to their workforces. This means that businesses are running leaner than ever while simultaneously having to do things they have never done before. As a result, they need access to capabilities — in many cases temporarily — that may not exist within the organization.
As our customers make strategic pivots and pursue new products, channels, markets, and ways of working, they can flexibly access right-sized expertise through our Expert Marketplace to help them execute. This flexibility allows business leaders to variabilize costs on capabilities that are critical temporarily but not core to the organization’s long-term operations, enabling companies hit hard by the pandemic to keep costs down while making investments to stabilize the business.
Case Study: Standing Up eCommerce Operations at a Multinational CPG Company
A consumer packaged goods company with plummeting brick-and-mortar retail sales had to strengthen its eCommerce capabilities and quickly expand into direct-to-consumer channels. This effort had already begun before the pandemic, but the company’s direct-to-consumer operations were still nascent and only available within some business units and product categories.
The Global Head of eCommerce had a growing team but the need to suddenly expand operations across myriad product lines was well beyond the team’s capacity.
Through Catalant’s Expert Marketplace, the eCommerce Head was able to find a PMO-lead based in the United Kingdom with deep experience standing up direct-to-consumer operations in US and European markets.
Flexing Up the Team
The PMO-lead was in place to orchestrate the program, but there were still several strategic questions to answer and operational problems to solve. As some product categories were more likely to sell in these market conditions and through these new channels, prioritization was a challenge. Was it a higher priority for them to first stand up direct-to-consumer sales for dog food, candy bars, or personal products?
Through Marketplace Services, they were able to browse for market research and data analysis experts to help them better understand consumer preferences and behavior, assess the market and competitive landscape, and align on the right products, channels, messaging and positioning.
There are countless examples — from corporate strategy to project management to data analytics to supply chain — of businesses large and small using our Expert Marketplace to find the right people to help them execute pivotal work in response to rapid changes in the market. During this period of volatility and uncertainty, one thing is clear: fortune favors the flexible.
Let Us Help
Catalant’s Expert Marketplace has the talent and technology to help you get from strategy to execution faster.
Through years of developing Catalant’s Expert Marketplace and SaaS platform with our enterprise customers, we’ve learned that uniting the right capabilities with the right technology is indispensable for scaling with large companies and evolving with their changing needs.